(True story by a doctor working in Central Africa. I only made a few minor punctuation, grammar, and spacing edits.)
[box] Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Psalm 105:1 [/box]
One night I worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward. In spite of all our efforts, she died, leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter.
We had difficulty keeping the baby alive because we had no incubator (no electricity to run one). Nor did we have special feeding facilities. Yes, we lived on the equator, but nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts.
One student midwife went for the box we reserved for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it burst (rubber perishes easily in tropical climates).
“It’s our last hot water bottle!” she exclaimed.
“…Where does my help come from?”
Just like in the West, it’s no good crying over spilled milk. In Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles. They don’t grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.
“All right,” I said, “put the baby as close to the fire as you safely can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.”
The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray for and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.
“Make your requests known to God.”
During prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. “Please God,” she prayed, “Send us a hot water bottle today. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God. The baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon.”
While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, “And while you’re at it, would you please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know you really love her?”
As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say “Amen”? I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything; the Bible says so. But there are limits ~ aren’t there?
The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be to send me a parcel from the homeland. I’d been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever, received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!
“…Have faith like a child”
Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there on the porch was a large 22-pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly… Excitement was mounting.
Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly-colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas – that would make a batch of buns for the weekend. Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the… could it really be? I grasped it and pulled it out. Yes, a brand new, rubber hot water bottle.
I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!” Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully-dressed dolly.
Her eyes shone! She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, “Can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?”
”Of course,” I replied!
“Lord I believe. Forgive my unbelief!”
That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child – five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it “that afternoon”.
Provider God, thank you a million times over for your faithfulness! No matter where we are in your world, you watch over us. Your beautiful attention to our cares stokes our struggling faith. Continue to use us and stretch us in Jesus’ name. Amen!
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. What do you think of this story? How has God answered your prayers? Thanks!